The row between Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail could influence politicians deciding on a new system of press regulation, a leading national newspaper executive has warned.
Rival systems of pres regulation proposed by Parliament and publishers are being considered by the Privy Council, which next meets on 9 October. Independent and Evening Standard content director Chris Blackhurst said it would be hard to "ignore what's been going on".
- June 22, 2017
- June 20, 2017
- June 9, 2017
Miliband insisted that his dispute over the Daily Mail's claim that his father "hated Britain" was not about regulation but "responsibility and right and wrong".
Blackhurst said he hoped the row would not influence the Privy Council but said it had "driven a wedge between politicians and the press".
He told the BBC Radio 4 programme The World at One: "The truth is we are all human and it's very hard for people sitting round that table next week to ignore what's been going on.
"I certainly think it will have driven a wedge between politicians and the press. The schism's already there and this has probably deepened it a bit further.
"I hope they don't really consider it, we are only really talking about one article this week … the whole of press regulation should not hang on one article."
In response to the Leveson Inquiry the leaders of the three main political parties agreed to set up a new press watchdog by royal charter with powers to impose million-pound fines on UK publishers and demand up front apologies.
But the newspaper industry rejected the idea of ''state-sponsored regulation'' and put forward a rival plan, which is being examined by a sub-committee of the Privy Council.
Blackhurst said he expected the industry's proposals to be rejected, but said the Privy Council operated in almost total secrecy.
"In all honesty I don't know, I don't think any of us know. The Privy Council is a very dark and mysterious body and we don't really know the level of discussions they have," he said.
"We just don't know. It's fascinating, here we are in the 21st Century and such a powerful body exists and it operates virtually in total secrecy. I suspect that they will not go with the press one and they will go with the cross-party.
"But that's only a feeling in my bones, it's nothing more than that."
If that happened,Blackhurst predicted an "almighty row".
"I think there will be disagreement. Some papers are more relaxed about it, although we still have reservations at the Independent and Evening Standard about it, but we are a bit more relaxed possibly than the Mail, Telegraph, Sun," he said.
"But there will be an almighty row and I think the sadness in all this is that here we are, Leveson was ages ago, we've had this report and we are just going on and on and on and the people who are suffering in this are the public because they are not getting the regulation they deserve."
Labour said it had received more than 10,000 signatures in support of Miliband's stance against the Daily Mail over an essay on his Marxist academic father Ralph, who died in 1994.
Miliband told the London Evening Standard: "I am drawing a line. We are going to conduct this next 19 months to the election in a way that is true to the decency of the British people.
"My mum, my brother, my wife all had the same reaction, you could not say that he hated Britain. In time past, people would say, it is the Mail, let it go. But I am not prepared to do that any more. I think it is not about regulation but about responsibility and right and wrong. That applies to the Daily Mail editor as much as anyone else.
"I don't think you can regulate for comment, but newspapers have a responsibility to society to conduct fair debate. And not to conduct politics in the gutter. I am not going to stay silent and let the Daily Mail do that."
The Labour leader has said that his father, a Jewish refugee who fled to Britain to escape the Nazis and who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, had always loved the country which gave him sanctuary.
Last night, on BBC2's Newsnight programme, Daily Mail's deputy editor Jon Steafel defended the article, saying the paper was entitled to examine critically Ralph Miliband's views and the potential influence they had on his son.
But he accepted that publication of a photograph of Ralph Miliband's grave alongside the online version of the article was an "error of judgment", adding that it was removed when the Labour leader complained.
But he made clear that the paper stood by the article – which first appeared on Saturday – arguing that Ralph Miliband's writings showed that he was "very antipathetic" to the views and values of many British people.
"His views on British institutions from our schools to our royal family to our military to our universities to the church to our great newspapers … what he said was that he felt that all of those things were bad aspects, were unfortunate aspects of British life," he said.
"If you take those things together and you combine them with an espousing of a Marxist ideology, that in our view represented someone who hated British values."
Miliband has won support from across the political spectrum for his response.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was "very understandable in any walk of life, not just in politics, that a son jumps to the defence of parents".
But he warned against "jumping to conclusions about regulation of the press from one argument".
London Mayor Boris Johnson told LBC 97.3 he understood Mr Miliband's reaction: "I've got ancestry that doesn't come from this country and I think people do feel very sensitive, particularly if the patriotism of those relatives is impugned.
"I can imagine that being a very, very hurtful thing and I would definitely want to fire back if it was me."
But Education Secretary Michael Gove – a former journalist – said the job of the press was to be "raucous and at times to upset people".